As the NBA Draft approaches, the extended absences of senior vice-president/general counsel Jason Levien is prompting questions about his role within the Kings organization. A former attorney and player agent - Hedo Turkoglu, Kevin Martin and Omri Casspi are ex-clients - Levien was hired in Nov., 2005, to assist Geoff Petrie with contract negotiations, salary cap matters and other basketball-related issues.
The past several weeks, however, Levien has missed most of the player workouts and rarely been seen on the premises. When I asked Petrie about the situation after the Samuel Dalembert press conference earlier today, the basketball president was even more tight-lipped than usual. "I don't know what to tell you," he said. "He's (Levien) currently employed. That's all I can say." When pressed about his one-time close associate's extended absences, Petrie added, "He's been working outside the building on other assignments."
Though the relationship between Petrie and Levien has become increasingly strained - for whatever reasons - Levien was given additional duties on the business side three months ago when Matina Kolokotronis replaced business president John Thomas. A New York native whose wife is a high-ranking executive with Forbes magazine, Levien remains close with Kolokotronis and co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof. The brothers in the past have touted Levien as Petrie's eventual successor.
In a brief conversation, Kolokotronis acknowledged that Levien has been much more closely involved with business issues, including the team's involvement in construction of a downtown arena. One source indicated that the organization's higher-ups plan to meet within the next few days to resolve matters.